What Are Your Consumers Saying About You?

This article is the first in a series on e-mail marketing and list strategies by Katie Cole, Ph.D., vice president of research and analytics for Merkle|Quris, the e-mail marketing agency of Merkle. You can contact Cole at kcole@quris.com.

New technologies are providing marketers with an ever-expanding array of opportunities, and marketers are becoming increasingly – and painfully – aware of the challenges that accompany these advances. Now marketers face challenges related to increased program complexity, costs, and media fragmentation. With so much changing so rapidly, where is one to begin?

With information, of course. To help marketers navigate today’s changing landscape, Merkle’s e-mail marketing agency, Merkle|Quris, in August conducted its fifth annual consumer survey of more than 2,500 e-mail users.

Some of the results were unexpected—reinforcing the need to continually gather information rather than rely on so-called conventional wisdom. For instance, according to our findings, e-mail tactics such as first-name greetings and the use of images instead of text for URLs—tactics that are heavily relied upon—do not increase the likelihood of a consumer response.

Then again, some of the findings did support many widely held beliefs in the industry. For example, consumer expectations regarding privacy is of paramount importance, and marketers must compete for a piece of consumers’ increasing fragmented attention.

A positive finding that emerged from the survey is that consumers are showing a favorable attitudinal shift regarding the e-mail channel. Spam, inbox fatigue, and other e-mail concerns seem to be lessening as consumers become more savvy – and as marketers begin to meet consumers’ high expectations. At the same time, the focus must stay strictly on consumer needs and expectations across online channels.

The survey, which was evaluated and compiled into a report entitled “View from the Inbox,” asked e-mail users about a range of topics regarding their use of e-mail in general and permission e-mail in specific. These findings, when combined with practical business experience, allow yuo to fully realize the power of the e-mail channel and to stimulate thinking about how you can effectively build powerful e-mail programs and integrate them into your overall marketing strategy.

In a series of articles, we’ll look at topics such as how to build e-mail lists with an emphasize on both volume and value, how to balance the marketing/service e-mail mix, how to maximize the impact of e-mail communications on a tactical level, and how to build an e-mail platform to accomplish your goals. We will also shed light into consumers’ online experiences and level of sophistication, which is continuing to increase as they become increasingly mobile.

Off the bat, it is clear that you need to ensure the timeliness of messages for recipients who will be wired virtually anywhere, anytime. You will also need to manage permissions and preferences for different devices. Data management, including security and privacy, will become even more complex, yet valuable. As attention spans become shorter and fragmentation increases, those marketers with the ability to keep the proverbial finger on the pulse of consumer behavior will reap the benefits.

We are entering a new phase of e-mail marketing in which marketers must devote increased attention toward maximizing the value of advanced technologies and robust consumer data. The goal of the series is to help you understand and capitalize on the increased opportunities, while reducing the complexity and streamlining processes across databases, channels, and verticals.

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